2021 Free National Park Days in the United States
I’m a big fan of the U.S. national parks – they are truly a gift from previous generations, and our greatest national treasure. I highly recommend getting out to visit as many as you can in your lifetime.
This year’s free national park days are:
- January 18, 2021: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- April 17, 2021: First Day of National Park Week
- August 4, 2021: One Year Anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act
- August 25, 2021: National Park Service Day
- September 25, 2021: National Public Lands Day
- November 11, 2021: Veterans Day
As of yet, there will not be free admission during the entirety of “National Park Week” as there had been a few years ago, but with a new administration and Secretary of the Interior, maybe that will change.
What Parks Participate in Free National Park Days?
The NPS oversees 423 national parks. A large majority of them do not charge entrance, admission, commercial tour, or transportation fees. 126 of them – often the highest traffic parks – do. Here’s a list of the 108 parks that typically charge entrance fees that will not on fee-free days.
Tours, camping, concessions, or third-party fees are not covered, unless the individual park states otherwise. With some national parks, it might be really hard to get camping permits for these days, unless you plan ahead and reserve now.
It includes the 10 most visited national parks, where you would otherwise have to pay to get in:
- Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee)
- Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
- Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado)
- Zion National Park (Utah)
- Yosemite National Park (California)
- Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)
- Acadia National Park (Maine)
- Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming)
- Olympic National Park (Washington)
- Glacier National Park (Montana)
If you’re looking for other parks, you can see a full national park map here.
Remember to be careful with parks that are at a high altitude, suffer from spring-time flash floods, or are in northern locations in the spring and winter. This is the untamed land, after all. Check with the park that you’re interested in visiting to identify which roads and campsites may still be closed.
If you plan on living a life of recreation this year, the NPS’s annual $80 America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass allows unlimited entrance to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including all national parks. I purchased one of these during a trip to Yosemite and Grand Teton, and we more than made our money back (versus day passes) on that trip alone. The pass lasts 12 full months after the month you buy it in.
Gold Star Families and U.S. Military Veterans Now Have Free Access to National Parks Indefinitely
Starting Veteran’s Day in 2020 (November 11, 2020), Gold Star families and U.S. Armed Forces veterans (including National Guard and Reserve) indefinitely have fee-free access (entrance and standard amenity fees) to national parks, wildlife refuges and other sites managed by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, and Army Corps of Engineers.
Identification required and more information can be found here.
This is a great idea that I am surprised wasn’t implemented before.
Free Entrance to National Parks from your Library
National park passes are often times one of the free perks libraries offer. Check with your local library to see if they have a pass and for restrictions on how long you can reserve the pass. Warning: you may have to book it far in advance.
National Parks Discussion:
- What is your favorite national park, and why?